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  • katiehillier

Inhaler – 2021 UK Tour

o2 Academy, Bristol


“It won’t always be like this” are the six magic words to hang onto. They’re also the six words making up the title to Inhaler’s debut album, which went straight to number 1 on the UK and Ireland charts, making them the first Irish band to do so on their debut in 13 years, and the opening track for both the album and current tour setlist. Now, they take on a new meaning for me, alluding to the slight sadness that I have found myself to be feeling this week, in the knowledge that the Inhaler Bristol show is now over, despite being warned several minutes into the show that it wasn’t always going to be like this.

Within moments of entering the stage, the confidence and charisma that frontman, Elijah Hewson, elicits is extremely evident. It’s quite clear that he’s been taking some tips from a certain somebody, who has also had some influence over the varied demographic of Inhaler’s music, but also the live show crowds. But the elephant in the room aside, Inhaler do not need any big names to help elevate their performance, nor do they need it to prove themselves; they are doing perfectly fine just on their own, and this is incredibly telling through the fact that all these people have paid to be here tonight, sticking around for their talent and leaving all prior expectations at the door. It really does prove that it’s one thing having those connections to help get your foot in the door, but it ultimately comes down to what you actually bring to the table, in order to keep yourself refreshing and worth the time of your audience. As a result of this, everyone appears to be having a great time throughout and it feels particularly uplifting and special, considering all of this has come after an 18-month drought of live music.

It Won’t Always Be Like This is the opening sequence, and the energy of the crowd is switched on instantly. The pit opens as soon as the first chorus comes around, and it all happens so quickly that I’m shoved a good metre across the standing area, and this is the point where I convinced myself I was probably going to die in this pit. I was not willing to move to higher ground, however, because I was just so captivated by the quality of the performance from Inhaler and their ability to get the crowd properly going within just their first song of the night. We Have To Move On has the same warm welcome from the crowd, however, the pit does get less rough, with the crowd taking the time to scream every word and really take it all in (and also point at Eli on the line “I beg for your hand in marriage”. Fair play).

A more relaxed moment follows with mid-tempo number, Slide Out The Window, offering a more mellow reflection on lockdown life, something that we are beginning to put firmly behind us, as things slowly return to normality. But don’t worry, because the chaos of the pit returns as synth-pop lead, Ice Cream Sundae, is introduced into the mix, so much so that an actual fight breaks out a couple of rows from where I’m standing.

This is an occurrence that has since been memeified by some of Inhaler’s most diehard fans across social media, and I have to admit, I spent a good forty-minutes in bed scrolling through all the witty captioned photos and stunned tweets recounting the absurdity of it all, the other day, however, at the time, it was frightening to some extent. I do think it’s important to praise Hewson’s dealing with the matter, as he did so in a very mature manner, stopping the song abruptly, and addressing the guys who were scrapping directly, advising them to “just separate”, before bemusedly declaring, “It’s a f*cking pop song, how do you fight to Ice Cream Sundae?” It’s now a pretty funny moment, that will probably be looked back on in the future of the band, but considering the fact that the majority of the standing area was predominantly made up of teenage girls, the way that this was sorted out made the environment feel a little bit safer.

When It Breaks is another lockdown inspired song, and sees Eli take to the crowd to perform the middle eight, which everybody obviously goes nuts for. The serotonin-induced bass-line of Who’s Your Money On (Plastic House) (a song in two parts), courtesy of Bobby Skeetz, kicks in and really gets the crowd going again, before the latter offers another breather (pun not intended) from the non-stop indie wavelengths that Inhaler boast within their discography. The soul-soothing vibrations of this moment also help to showcase the vocal talent that Hewson has inherited, swapping his signature shout for much softer tones. There’s a spotlight that creates a kaleidoscopic effect across the stage, making it a really atmospheric and beautiful moment.

Probably the most memorable part of the show (aside from the fight) is the addictive, My King Will Be Kind, arguably the fan favourite, evidently through the fact that the crowd know exactly what song is about to play when lead guitarist, Josh Jenkinson, is handed an acoustic guitar. On that line, everyone screams as loud as possible, so that Eli’s vocals are a mere background. In some respects, this is therapeutic, and I still get hyped up when I watch the video back from that moment, because of how cathartic it all felt. Inhaler really have the entire crowd in the palm of their hand, which is something that is increasingly important after the period of time that we have gone without live music. All of this is exactly what you want from a gig.

It’s the quickest hour of my entire life, probably because of how happy and excited I was to be in the crowd. Cheer Up Baby is the indie sing-along that we’ve all been craving, and I don’t think anyone in the crowd really cared whether they were singing in tune or not (again, you can hear the fans over the band in my video of the track - the reason I love gigs so much). It was truly euphoric. Closer, My Honest Face, arguably Inhaler’s biggest hit, is the final dance (or mosh), with the crowd so excited that they sing the guitar riffs. The euphoria and energy run high until the very end, everyone with their arms in the air, jumping and chanting every single word. The strobe lighting pulses through the audience on the “I wanna be up on TV” segment, and Eli leaves it up to the audience to sing the final “Kill the fear(s)”, before the crowd goes absolutely mental, and I convince myself that this is probably the point in which I’m going to die. Obviously, I’m absolutely fine with it - I’m buzzing way too much to care anymore.

Inhaler are without a doubt a band that you need to get on your radar as soon as possible. Their live performance oozes with the confidence and charisma that some bands playing much bigger venues crave. With their anthemic, feel-good bangers, they manage to keep the energy high throughout, and they appear to be an incredibly tight band, who know exactly how to keep their fanbase captivated, begging for more. I leave the show in awe, wishing I could rewind the hour and go back. Catch them whilst you can, because it’s not always going to be like this - it’s about to get much, much bigger for the Dublin quartet.



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